FAIRFIELD -- Just like a top prizefighter, when you get Darien pitcher Jess DeMaio on the ropes, you better finish her off. Knowing that and doing that, however, are two different things.

St. Joseph knew it ... and when the Cadets failed to finish her off when they had the chance, they knew they were doomed.

DeMaio escaped when she had to Friday. helping lift Darien to a 4-1 victory in the FCIAC semifinals at Sacred Heart University. The second-seeded Blue Wave (19-3) will try to defend their FCIAC championship Saturday at noon at SHU against the No. 1 seed Westhill, which defeated Norwalk 7-4 Friday.

"The key was Jess holding it together when things got tight," Darien coach Nick DeMaio said after the game. "It's the beauty of having a senior all-state pitcher who has been pitching in these situations for three years."

Experience certainly helped DeMaio in the top of the fourth after allowing a one-out home run to St. Joseph's Jess Vazquez that cut Darien's lead to 3-1. Watching Vazquez, who had two hits, blast a homer should not be that surprising. The Cadets' slugger is one of the top hitters in the FCIAC.

Still, this ace pitcher doesn't allow too many of them. And when DeMaio walked the next two batters before an infield error loaded the bases, the right-hander was indeed on the ropes.

"Vazquez is a great hitter and I have to give her credit but the home run frazzled me," DeMaio said. "So I took a deep breath, relaxed and trusted my defense."

The next two batters were retired on soft infield popups, and that experience came in handy the next inning when Taryn Ficmic and Vazquez singled for St. Joseph with two outs. DeMaio took a deep breath, relaxed and struck out the next batter on her way to retiring six of the final seven batters she faced.

"DeMaio got rattled a couple of times but she acted like a senior and got her composure back," St. Joseph coach Jeff Babineau said after his team's 16-game winning streak ended. "She didn't let us get the big hit when we really needed it."

DeMaio struck out eight, walked two and allowed five hits. Her teammates helped out with the rest.

"Darien has all the tools, all the weapons," Babineau said. "They're a great team."

Emma Hamilton (two hits) tripled in the first run in the bottom of the first before doubles by DeMaio( two hits) and Courtney Bell (two RBI) and a single by Kelly Fahey made it 3-0 in the third. Darien, which defeated St. Joseph 8-0 back on April 9 and has won 16 of 17, added a run in the fifth on singles by Erika Osherow and DeMaio, and a sacrifice fly by Bell.

Darien 4, St. Joseph 1

ST. JOSEPH 000 100 0--1 5 2

DARIEN 012 010 X--4 7 2

Records: St. Joseph 18-4, Darien 19-3.

Batteries: SJ--Tori Ceballos (L, 15-4) and Jenn Vazquez; D--Jess DeMaio (W, 17-3) and Olivia Gozdz.

Doubles: D--DeMaio, Courtney Bell. Triples: D--Emma Hamilton. Home Runs: SJ--Vazquez.